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We Tracked the Complete Timeline of ‘The Exorcist’ Franchise; TV Series Included!

Forty years of storytelling. In chronological order.

While it initially seemed to be an in-name-only television series, FOX’s “The Exorcist” has turned out to be anything but. As we learned in the fifth episode of the debut season, the story is actually a direct continuation of the original film, which has been pretty awesome for us longtime fans of the franchise. We don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with the series, so we urge you to avoid the last couple paragraphs of this post if you haven’t.


At the time of writing this post, the first season of “The Exorcist” is coming to an end in just a couple days, so now seemed like as good of a time as any to do something I’ve been wanting to do since the show blew my mind with that big episode 5 reveal. The story that began in 1973 has continued in the form of two sequels, two prequels, and now a TV series, and I thought it’d be interesting to track the whole damn storyline in the form of a handy little timeline. After all, at its core, the whole franchise is about one main character: the demon known as Pazuzu.

We begin a long, long time ago…


CIRCA 500 A.D.

The saga of The Exorcist begins around 500 A.D., as documented in dueling prequels The Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist. A large army, led by two priests, traveled to Kenya looking for the origin of evil, and there they met the demon known as Pazuzu. The evil force consumed them, and they all ended up killing each other. To mask what had happened and entomb the demon, a Christian Byzantine church was built over the site and then completely buried.

Buried, that is, until 1949.



His faith shattered by an incident involving Nazi soldiers, Father Lankester Merrin has taken a sabbatical from the church and is participating in an archaeology dig in, you guessed it, Kenya. This is where he comes face to face with Pazuzu for the first time, in the year 1949.

The excavation of the church is being done to recover the ancient Pazuzu idol, and of course, digging it up results in the demon being freed. In Dominion, the demon possesses a young boy named Cheche, but in The Beginning, it’s the dig’s female doctor who becomes possessed. In both films, Pazuzu is driven out by an exorcism conducted by Merrin, and they both end with Merrin’s faith restored.

But the demon isn’t done with Merrin just yet.



William Friedkin’s The Exorcist was released in, and presumably takes place in 1973. At the beginning of the film, Father Merrin is on an archaeological dig in Iraq when he comes across a statue of Pazuzu, who he of course did battle with many years prior.

Meanwhile, over in Washington, D.C., a young Regan MacNeil plays with a Ouija board and unknowingly summons forth Pazuzu – Regan refers to the demon, which appears to her as a salesman with a red bird on his shoulder, as Captain Howdy. Her mother Chris MacNeil calls in Father Merrin and Father Damien Karras to exorcise the demon from Regan’s body, and in doing so, Merrin is killed and Karras becomes the new host for Pazuzu. Sacrificing himself to kill the demon, Karras jumps out the window, and presumably dies.

Well sort of. More on that in a minute.



The sequel The Exorcist II: The Heretic is set four years after the events of the original film, so we can deduce that it takes place in 1977. Regan, now 16 years old, confronts the horrifying events of her childhood at a psychiatric institute, and we learn that she was targeted by Pazuzu due to her ability to telepathically reach inside the minds of others.

Okay then.

Back at the Georgetown house, Regan battles the demon once more, though this time he is not inside of her. The film ends with Regan herself banishing her old friend Captain Howdy.

But perhaps it’s best we don’t even acknowledge the events of The Heretic.



We jump forward to 1990 in The Exorcist III, which primarily centers on Lieutenant William F. Kinderman (a character from the original film). The lieutenant is investigating a series of gruesome murders in Georgetown, and he comes to the conclusion that they’re the work of James “The Gemini” Venamun – a serial killer who was executed seventeen years prior. After the killer was executed, his soul entered the body of Damien Karras, who is still alive and being held at a psychiatric ward, and he’s also able to inhabit other bodies and force them to do his bidding. The soul-hopping, we learn, is the work of the Gemini’s spiritual master: a vengeful Pazuzu, who is still furious about being driven out of young Regan’s body.

Kinderman is eventually forced to kill Karras and end the nightmare.



Now forty-three years after the events of The Exorcist, Regan MacNeil is living in Chicago under the name Angela Rance. She has two daughters, Casey Rance and Katherine Rance, and when Casey becomes possessed by Pazuzu, Angela is forced to reveal her biggest secret to her family: she is Regan MacNeil, the little girl who was possessed by Pazuzu in the 1970s.

What Pazuzu really wants is to be back inside Regan, and in a moment of desperation, Regan gives the demon what he desires so that he will leave Casey’s body. Shortly after being taken over by Captain Howdy, Regan kills her own mother, Chris MacNeil, revealing that she is no longer Regan MacNeil or Angela Rance.

Regan and Pazuzu have now become one, four decades after their initial encounter.

What comes next? We’ll just have to wait and see.




  • aFriendlyAgenda

    Pretty girl.

    • Saturn

      So it’s taken 2 days for a “CREEPY……” comment. Sigh………..


  • Sting circa 1984
    • Saturn

      What’s that got to do with the Exorcist, aside from being written by Blatty?

      • lupe

        The astronaut is a character in The Exorcist. This character is at the party Chris holds at her house when a possessed Regan appears and tells him, “you’re going to die up there.”

        • Saturn

          I’ve just read Sting’s explanation before yours (it was disqus linked before yours, so nothing personal!) – but both of you have explained the link to me – which was something I never knew until today, so thanks to both of you for teaching this ol’ dog a new trick, so to speak.

          I assume that the astronaut does indeed “die up there”?

          • Sting circa 1984

            I think we did a good job of providing both the short answer and the long answer. Lupe sums up all anyone really needs to know. As for the astronaut, you’ll have to see the movie.

      • Sting circa 1984

        Excellent question. Before Blatty found fame with The Exorcist, he mostly wrote comedy. In 1966 he wrote a book called “Twinkle Twinkle Killer Kane”. It involved a group of US combat veterans who went insane during their tours of duty and had to be removed from active duty. In an experiment designed to determine whether the inmates are actually insane or pretending to be in order to avoid combat, they are basically allowed to run the nuthouse themselves.

        After The Exorcist, he rewrote it as The Ninth Configuration, adding a bit more drama. He considers it the second book in his ‘Faith Trilogy’, which begins with The Exorcist and ends with Legion. Each book follows a character having a crisis of faith.

        The studio wanted a sequel to The Exorcist and of course when Blatty suggested this they turned him down. They wanted a horror movie, not an exploration of personal faith full of philosophical conversation. They certainly didn’t want a comedy. And honestly I can’t blame them.

        Blatty later made the movie on his own, without any obvious connection to The Exorcist. However, as lupe pointed out, the main character in The Ninth Configuration is the same astronaut that once attended a party at a certain home in Georgetown, back in the early 70s. A little girl told him he would die up there. In The Ninth Configuration, Captain Billy Cutshaw (played by Scott Wilson of The Walking Dead) is an astronaut who goes mad during final countdown, causing NASA to abort the mission and pull him from the rocket. He keeps screaming “There’s nothing up there!” and is terrified that he will die alone in space. He becomes the only patient in the asylum that wasn’t in combat.

        Although there is no official connection between these two characters, Blatty doesn’t really hide that they’re the same. In fact, if you go to the IMDB page for The Exorcist and click on “Astronaut” as it is credited next to Dick Callinan’s name, it brings you to the character page for Capt. Billy Cutshaw.

        Blatty would later adapt Legion into a movie himself as well, which of course became The Exorcist III. The studio again wanted horror, and added an exorcism scene as a climax. Blatty’s original cut of the film, which adheres much closer to his novel was finally released this year as part of an anniversary blu-ray.

        • Saturn

          Ah, so there is a link in a (as they call it these days) shared universe kind of way. Cool, I’m always happy to learn something new.
          Thanks for the explanation – it does make sense now you’ve joined the dots.

          Is The Ninth Configuration worth a blind watch at some stage – is it at all horror related, or a completely different kind of beast?

          ***EDIT**** Actually, I’ve just done a quick google search of the movie, and it looks to have a pretty strong cast, so I reckon I’ll have to check it out at some stage.

          • Sting circa 1984

            I strongly urge you to see it, but don’t expect horror. It’s a comedy that turns into a drama by the end. There isn’t anything supernatural or demonic in the entire movie.

          • Andrew Lyall

            Well… not quite. There is a fairly major supernatural intervention. The St Christopher medal (which also links Ninth Configuration visually to both The Exorcist and Exorcist III).

          • Sting circa 1984

            But what was supernatural about the medal?

          • Andrew Lyall

            Okay Saturn, don’t read this! Spoilers!
            Cutshaw gives Kane his St Christopher medal. I forget what but Kane has scratched something on its reverse. Later in the film Kane promises to try and provide Cutshaw with proof of life after death should he die first. We know what Kane does for Cutshaw in that regard. At the very end of the film, some years later, Cutshaw returns to the now abandoned castle. Upon returning to his car he finds a medal has appeared on the back seat. He turns it over to confirm whether it was the one he gave to Kane and silently rejoices at what he sees. The medal has materialised. Kane has kept his promise and Cutshaw finally has his proof. It’s a brief moment in the very final seconds of the film, but it’s quite quite beautiful.

          • Saturn

            Thank’s for the spoiler alert (there are many who wouldn’t bother) – I shall come back to this after (if I remember to, which I prolly won’t if I’m honest…) I have got around to watching the movie.

            Again, thank you for being polite enough for a Spoiler kinder deal. 😉

  • Saturn

    I wonder if they will cover the events of Exorcist 2 in the show – or are they just ignoring it ever happened (alongside Exorcist 3 – which would be a disappointment) and just having the show as the direct sequel to the original movie?
    It would be interesting if, in the 2nd season (if it happens, which I hope it does) they can link modern day events to the Gemini killer – perhaps showing that he has returned.

    • John Squires

      Very possible. I hope it gets renewed so we can find out!

      • Saturn

        It’s really frustrating when a good show gets cancelled due to “low” ratings, whereas a piece of shit, brainless, lowest denominator show can run for years!
        Fuck you FRIENDS!!!!

        • Mr. Screamer

          What does Friends have to do with this.

          • Saturn

            It was a terrible, over-rated “comedy” which relied on the line “oh my God..” to much.
            Turgid piece of crap tv.

          • Mr. Screamer

            It is also one of the most iconic sitcoms created. 🙂

          • Saturn

            You are, sadly (in my eyes anyway – but, each to their own) correct. 🙁

            I look at it this way – for me, it didn’t work – it’s a piece of shit.
            But, there are 10’s (100’s? Maybe 1000’s) of million of people who it DID work for. So, swings and roundabouts and if it floats your boat? Great – you’ve found something you enjoy – so who am I to say you’re wrong?
            I’ve always been a “you respect my opinion – I’ll respect yours” kinda guy.

            What I really dislike is the whole “you disagree with ME so YOU’RE wrong mindset” that’s a little lame.
            If we all like the same things because we are expected to? Well, that’s Communism. Allegedly. 😉

            Although I still stand by my whole Friends is shit viewpoint!!!!

          • Mr. Screamer

            Friends became a hit because of its simple premise: 6 friends and their lives. it just worked.
            Sure, you don’t think it’s good, and that’s your opinion,i get it, but calling it a piece of shit might Be a bit harsh, though. it is an important part of 90s pop culture, like Scream, for example.
            however, you’re right, we should respect each other’s opinion. 🙂

  • Travis_Bickle

    I really like the show alot. Not sure if they will be doing a season 2 cuz I anticipate Regan getting killed

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